A Manifesta on Money – A Guide to Unapologetic Pricing
I want to build extraordinary wealth so I can invest it back in community, in reparations, in shifting the balance of economic power, in paying employees thriving wages & profit sharing, in paying speakers and educators and ASL interpreters abundantly for their labor, in building new cultures and systems of collective care, pleasure, easefulness and joy.
This topic has been a long time coming as I’ve been wrestling with money mindset matters for decades.
I wonder to myself, “Why is this something I see so many women and queer and trans and disabled and Black and Indigenous and People of color wrestle with?”
Then I remember, “Oh right, the system has been designed to keep all who are not cis, hetero, white, men, from accessing wealth. Because who has money has power.”
Here and Now
The raw truth is that pricing services is challenging for many entrepreneurs. Maaaaaaanny factors go into pricing such as business expenses, life expenses, my investment of time, emotional labor, energy, training, education, professional development, and lived experience.
As a queer, fat, gender-expansive, Autistic-ADHD entrepreneur, I embody a number of identities that have been historically and consistently underresourced and undercapitalized. Still, I recognize the various advantages I also experience as a result of existing in a white body.
Equity, justice, and access are core values for me personally and for my business. And I have come to understand that those values and charging sustainable fees that reflect the value of what I invest in my clients are not mutually exclusive.
The rEVOLution takes capital.
I’m not actually engaging in equitable money practices if I am under pricing my services resulting in my own ongoing financial struggle–this is just trading one struggling person for another.
I have also learned–over the decades of volunteering thousands of hours of community labor, mental health labor, and educational labor–that I do my best work with and for clients when I am being paid on par with the investment I make in how I show up for each client.
As an entrepreneur, I have made a number of financial investments in my business, the majority of that in receiving coaching from leaders, mentors, and seasoned business owners I respect and admire. I make it a priority to invest in learning from Black women, gender expansive people, women, anti-oppression thought leaders, and anti-racist business coaches.
While some of the investments I have and am making stretch me out of my financial comfort zone, the return on investment I am recieving in every coaching call, every workbook exercise, every connection I make in those communities, every brainstorm over my copy, is exponentially higher in value than what I invested.
I have been inspired by the writings of Simone Grace Seol an ADHD coach, entrepreneur, and 7-figure business owner, who then directed me to the model of Wort + Cunning Apothecary sliding scale to offer multiple investment tiers to clients in an effort to honor and acknowledge the variations in financial priviledge, access, and class in which my clients live.
I offer the tiered pricing on group programs only.
I have huge dreams for the future of Expansive Expressions…you might even say they’re expansive 😉
I plan to have a financially prosperous business so I can hire neurodivergent and disabled employees paying them VERY well, with comprehensive benefits, and profit sharing.
I plan to bring Black, Indigenous, Autistic, ADHD, Disabled, Queer, Gender Expansive guest speakers, educators, and panelists paying them at the top – or more – of their range to honor their labor and investment.
I plan to partner with investors to generate start-up grants for new entrepreneurs who are neurodivergent and disabled.
I plan to co-create a model of business and organizational design that is actually inclusive, accessible, and anti-oppressive…and then I want to teach others how to apply that to their business.
I plan to build a life that is balanced, sustainable, and enjoyable.
It all takes capital. A LOT of capital.
And I believe with every mitochondria within me that this vision is an absolutely worthy investment for me, and for you.
In the Beginning…
For me, roots of my broken relationship with money began in childhood being raised in an evangelical religious community. The teachings I received about money were that it was a sin to desire money, it is righteous to give away money, and wanting money was evil.
Add into that mix that I was an unidentified Autistic-ADHD kid who was being raised and socialized as a girl. This layers on a number of other factors such as: I took those religious lessons I learned from infancy literally. I worked at following those teachings with my whole entire heart. I was also raised to be hospitable that I have a role to welcome people, to feed them, care for them, make them feel at home in any setting I was in. I took that role to heart as well.
I had big dreams of changing the world as a kid. Like when I was 13 years old I filled a whole binder full of ideas about how to re-route kids from incarceration into therapeutic healing programs with animals because I thought they deserved to heal more than they deserved to be locked up.
The model I was shown, through the religious community and seeing my family members donate consistently to missionaries, is that you don’t need to worry about money because God’s got you covered. If you have a vision for doing “the Lord’s work” all the resources will come to you, your community will provide for you, everything will come together.
Again, literal me taking all of this deeply to heart as how to move forward in life.
As an adult, I pursued jobs that were more about caring for people than making money. Why do I need to care about making money if God’s got me covered for my big world-changing dreams?
Well…as I left my home and went out into the world in adulthood and was exposed to other ways of thinking and understanding the world, I began to shift my relationship with money.
It was a struggle though, being in community organizing and non-profit work there is so much scarcity. Trudi Lebrón discusses this in her book, Anti-Racist Business Book when she coins and defines the term, “nonprofit mindset syndrome.”
I’ve also seen how collective scarcity can result in people judging others with a harshness for pricing their fees at a sustainable rate. As if the scarcity teaches us that none of us should prosper while in reality, liberation teaches us that we all deserve to thrive, and that our collective liberation is tied up with each other.
“Nonprofit mindset syndrome is a set of beliefs that are perpetuated by nonprofits and public service organizations, including schools, libraries, and much of the human service sector, that trains professionals in these industries to accept the conditions of scarcity of resources”
Out of Religion, Into Activism
I navigated new realms of being in service to other humans outside of the context of religion (because I eventually broke up with religion when I became clear how it was more often used as a tool of control and oppression than anything else). And yet, even without the religious teachings in my mind, I found I still resonated with anti-capitalist movements.
I lived in LA when the Occupy movement happened. I participated in bringing food and medical supplies to people and listening to how people were talking about money and economic systems. Sadly too much of it was white-washed and skewed still in favor of white priviledge.
As I began the work of deconstructing white supremacy and decolonizing my mind (at that time I was in community with Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural learning from Indigenous elders in the community and guided by Trini and Luis Rodriguez. In the very early season of my anti-racist education, I was deep in my fragility and shallow in my comprehension of white priviledge. Somewhere during that season, I created a notion (no one told me this, my own mind came up with it) that in order to be a good anti-racist accomplice I needed to remain in a life of struggle. Some twisted idea of penance I guess?? I don’t know, and I’m embarrassed to admit it here.
In fact I’m anxious about publishing a lot of what I’m writing here because it’s so vulnerable. And yet, I write and share because I know the chances are high at least 1 other person on the planet has experienced at least some of this and I like bringing shame into the light so it has no power.
I am eternally grateful for the abundant patience, kindness, and tolerance those elders had with me in those early days…as they stuck with me as I thrashed about the beginning of my deconstruction process. I am sure I was a frustrating student and yet they saw something in me worth sticking around for and continued to gently and firmly guide me in the direction of truth.
I continued to wrestle my mind between the reality of being exhausted by decades of financial struggle and wanting to be true to the work of anti-capitalism, justice, and equity.
For a long time I didn’t know how to reconcile those two pieces, or even if they could be reconciled.
I grappled with this as I opened up my own private practice in 2017 navigating what to charge clients for therapy as a complex trauma specialist. I invested so much into getting where I was, and also it felt exploitative to charge so much when my clients were at absolutely rock bottom.
I donated thousands of hours of therapy in my desire to be accessible and equitable.
But here is a thing I have learned. I’m not actually being financially accessible and equitable if I charge so little that I cannot pay my bills and my own life becomes inaccessible.
In the Summer of 2022
A dear friend of mine and Business Bestie, Jackie Schuld, ATR-BC, LPC has had many conversations with me about pricing our services. She is an Autistic board certified art therapist with a private practice and writes extensively about building a practice that serves the therapist including pricing that is sustainable. You can read her collection on practice-building on her Medium.
I have learned so much from Jackie around what it is to balance equity, justice, our own needs as humans who are Autistic, and building a pleasureable business; I’m so grateful she is one of my thought partners in business.
Jackie also introduced me to the book, We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers. Rachel Rodgers is the founder of Hello 7, a multi-million dollar business that coaches other historically underresourced identities on how to build successful 7-figure businesses. One of the first ways that Rachel’s approach blew my mind (there have been many) was when she speaks about how building wealth and doing justice work are NOT mutually exclusive. And in fact, justice work takes a great deal of capital and if we who are most passionate about justice work have no capital, we cannot effect the kind of systemic-scale overhaul we need in the world.
That stopped me in my tracks right there.
Wait. You mean, it’s ok for me to want to provide fully for myself–needs and wants–AND do justice work?!?!
What a radical notion!
My learning continued as I joined Kelly Diels‘ course, Copywriting for Culture Makers. In this course, I have been learning so much about marketing from an intersectional feminist lens, about how money and justice work together, and about building ecosystems of accessibility and inclusion.
The Journey Continues
I and my relationship with money are an ever-evolving thing. I continue to learn, to weigh truths, to grapple with all the facets and I will continue to share points along this journey with you.
I think maybe I wrote this manifesta for myself, because maybe I needed to document myself giving myself permission to build and want an easeful life. I’m giving myself permission to believe it is not an evil or greedy desire to have my needs and wants met and free up my brain to focus on how I can do my part to transform culture, rather than being constantly tied up with how to pay next month’s bills.
I’ve also realized this other piece about accessibility and equity, during the times when money has been more tight for me, it means that I have had to stop investing in people and projects that matter to me like Black and Indigenous artists, Black Lives Matter, Tia Chucha’s, and projects working to protect trans kids. When I have an abundance of financial resources, I invest them back into what matters.
Statistics reflect this…when women, when gender expansive people, when Black, Indigenous and other people of the global majority, when disabled people, when queer people have money, we pour it back into lifting others up out of struggle.
That’s the biggest part of my dream, is wanting to build opportunities for other neurodivergent and disabled people to build THRIVING lives…not just barely surviving lives.
So, while I didn’t owe anyone the story of my journey or justification for the way I price my fees at this point in my journey, I value transparency and am grateful to anyone who took the time to read my money story.
What’s your money story?
Would you like a thought partner to work with you to process your money/pricing clutter?
Would you like to give yourself permission to charge more abundantly so you can thrive in your work?